60 Minutes reported last Sunday that fifty-two former state attorneys-general have asked Congress to investigate whether the conspiracy and bribery charges brought against former Alabama governor Don Siegelman were part of a five-year secret campaign to ruin the governor orchestrated by none other than President Bush’s chief hatchet man, Karl Rove.
A judge dismissed the first case against Siegelman in 2004 because it was so weak. The Justice Department re-indicted him in 2005 when he launched another campaign for governor. The office of U.S. Attorney Leura Canary handled the prosecution. Her husband Bill Canary, one of Rove’s close Alabama associates, had run the campaign of Siegelman’s opponent, Governor Riley, in 2002.
Siegelman was accused of giving a position on a state board to businessman Richard Scrushy in exchange for a $250,000 donation to a lottery campaign. The star witness, Nick Bailey, claimed that he saw Siegelman take the check after meeting Scrushy. The check, however, was cut days after the meeting, and prosecutors knew it.
Bailey, who was facing ten years in prison for extorting money from Alabama businessmen, had agreed to cooperate with prosecutors to get a lighter sentence. Prosecutors met with Bailey 70 times and made him write and rewrite his proposed testimony in order to get his story straight. Those notes, by law, should have been turned over to the defense.
Karl Rove and others at the White House have been subpoenaed to testify before Congress but have refused to appear. And the Justice Department has refused to turn over hundreds of documents in the case.
Using federal prosecutors as political tools to investigate people instead of crimes is yet another instance of politics corrupting and undermining our system of justice. If we choose to ignore the mounting evidence that the system has been politicized, we do so at our peril.